Come and See

I’ve embarked on a journey through the gospels, reading them together chronologically. I’m just a few days in, and loving it. Scripture is packed with nuggets of truth and wisdom. Makes me think of Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Well, I can be pretty simple so this verse is an encouragement to me.

Today I was reading the story of Jesus’ first meeting of his disciple Philip in John 1:43-51. I’d read this passage of scripture before, but today it ‘unfolded’ before me in a new way. Philip, a true disciple at heart, immediately brings a man named Nathanael to meet Jesus. It’s like he can’t help it! And despite Philip’s enthusiasm, Nathanael’s first response was filled with judgment about this man from Nazareth, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, ESV) Philip’s response? “Come and see.” (John 1:46, ESV)

Jesus greets Nathanael in a very personal way, going so far as to call out where he was at the time Philip came to him. Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart, and spoke directly to him in a personal way. Isn’t that how Jesus speaks to each one of our hearts, if we allow him to? If we would accept the invitation to ‘come and see’.

Sometimes our first response is filled with doubt and judgement, like Nathanael. But once confronted with Jesus, he wasted no time at claiming that Jesus was who he said he was. As one of the first to recognize Messiah, he exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49, ESV)

I wonder what Nathanael’s faith walk was like after this encounter. Were there ups and downs? Did he pursue Jesus faithfully every day, without doubt? I believe Nathanael walked closely with his Rabbi, and had a personal relationship with him. In John 21:2 as Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, revealing himself to Nathanael. Wow. Don’t you wonder what that would have been like?!

Even if our first response to Jesus each day is not faith-filled, He still knows our heart and how to speak personally to us. The Lord knows us better than we do; we are His creation after all. To have that personal relationship with the Lord, we must ‘come and see’. Come to Him in worship, scripture and prayer. God will intimately speak to our hearts when we enter into relationship with Him. And with Nathanael’s response, we can exclaim who He is, give Him glory in worship and praise. “You are the Son of God!”

Can I encourage you to read John 1:43-51 today? Ask the Lord to unfold this encounter with Jesus’ in a new way. He is so faithful. You are seen by the living God, Creator of heaven and earth. He desires to have that personal relationship with you, His creation. Lean in close, letting your doubt become faith. Come to Him, and see.

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“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.!” Psalm 34:8 Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

 

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Resurrection Day!

It’s no coincidence that I’ve been editing Week 3, Day 4 of this Bible study on the book of Joshua. It’s all about Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits – which coincide with Resurrection Sunday (Easter).  I just love these days on our spiritual calendar.

I’ve been deep in the editing, and not writing, but wanted to leave you with a few verses as we take in the next few days. May we posture our hears and minds towards the King!

“But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (ESV)

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

 

Led & Pursued by God

I’ve known through scripture that God surrounds us. Psalm 139:5 states, “You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.” (CSB) I believe that. However, the other day while reading Psalm 23, I realized the similar sentiment of Psalm 139. In Psalm 23:2, we are being lead; therefore, He must be in front of me. Verse 6 says that only goodness and love will pursue me, as coming up behind me. Knowing that God is love, I’m going to take that as God pursuing me with his qualities of goodness and love.

It was a new understanding of how I am being encircled – lead to quiet waters and pursued with goodness and love. That is something I can really settle in to; it gives shape to those thoughts of being encircled by God. Not only will I be lead beside quiet waters, but on the right path! (vs. 3) Being led and pursued by the same person seems impossible, but not for God. Our Creator is omnipresent, at all places at all times.

When life feels up in the air, discombobulated and out of control, remembering that God will lead me on the right path and cover my rear with His goodness and love is comforting. It also carries with it the weight of relationship – to be led, I must be willing to listen, trust and follow Him.

Psalm 23 starts out with the proclamation that ‘The LORD is my shepherd’, not me. John 10 talks about the good shepherd being Jesus. “When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:4)

We get to be sheep. And sheep listen to and know the voice of their shepherd, it’s how they are led. Jesus has gone ahead of us, clearing the path before us. We see where He is leading us at the end of Psalm 23 in verse 6, “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.” We are being led to the house of the Lord! There may still be danger, valleys, and enemies present but we can trust the Shepherd, walking in faith rather than fear.

I want to challenge you in reading Psalm 23 over the next few days, read it several times. Let it be more than recited phrases, but truth to your soul. Pray it! Proclaim it!

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“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6 (ESV)    Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Tested Genuiness

I had the joy of sitting down to breakfast with a group of high school students for breakfast recently; it was a Wednesday morning prayer breakfast. This group of young people gather nearly every Wednesday morning before school for a devotional and to share a meal together. It’s truly amazing – teens who willingly get up early in order to spend time in fellowship and God’s word. Biscuits & gravy, eggs, hash browns and chocolate milk may have something to do with it…

After breakfast we visited about trials and testing, how it is a continual process where God uses everything. I was able to use the example of rendering beeswax and that when all the ick is filtered out, we are able to shine God’s love more brightly to others. We looked at 1 Peter 1:3-9 and the idea of our faith being a treasure to the Lord.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV, emphasis mine)

Trials come and go but when we’re going through it, it feels like forever. Time can stand still as we focus on “it” – whatever “it” happens to be at the present time. No matter what our circumstances are, scripture promises that “it” will only last a little while in the scope of eternity with the Lord. That testing is part of our faith, tested to be genuine to the Lord. That’s a hard one to swallow when your in the thick of it.

But take a look at that last little bit, the portion about praise, glory, and honor. Those three things have the power to change an atmosphere and an attitude. Giving God praise through the trial, is glorifying to Him. When I focus my attention on the One over the circumstances, there is a peace that passes all understanding. I’m also honoring Him with my thoughts, which is reflected in my actions and reactions.

I’m not going to sugar coat this, it’s hard. But we have the ability to offer up praises to Him as a sacrifice through the trials. I want to challenge you with this. In the hardship, instead of your normal response, try worshiping or praising God. In believing and trusting God, offer up praise, glory, and honor to Him through your trail. I believe a tested and genuine faith will be revealed. I’ve experienced it. How about you? Have you ever thought about your faith being a treasure to God, more precious than gold, refined in the Refiner’s fire?

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“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that yo may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (ESV) Photo by Evaldas Daugintis on Unsplash

 

 

In The Morning

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, but I’ve missed you! Any time for writing is being focused toward the study on Joshua. I’m so ready for it to be completed and be able to share it with you – it’s getting closer. Re-writing and edits!

For now, I’ll try and keep it short rather than quiet. That seems doable.

The verse God has me focused on and challenged with right now is Psalm 5:3, here are three different translations.

“Oh LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (ESV)

“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” (CSB)

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for you and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. (AMP)

In the morning. As in first thing – the Firstfruit of my day. In the morning, before I give my attention to anything else, flooding my mind with the waiting demands and welcomed distractions.  And why wouldn’t I want to give my heart and thoughts over to the One who hears my voice? The One who is expectantly waiting for me, in relationship.

What can I possibly offer as a sacrifice? Prayer? Worship? My thoughts? Glorifying Him, rather than myself or others? My heart? Gratitude?

I want to challenge you with this verse. What does it mean to you? What can you prepare as a sacrifice to the Lord? And then watch! Watch expectantly.

Love you ~ Amy

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

What are you listening to? Fear or Faith?

When I was a little girl, my dad would tell us a story about Red Eyes and Bloody Bones. This story would often be told around a campfire or as we navigated the hills and curves of country roads at night. I recall the angst one night as he turned off the car’s headlights at just the right time, so we could see the taillights of another vehicle a half mile up the road. The story can still make me squirm, and I know it’s make-believe!

One night, when my children were old enough, they too were introduced to this scary tale during a slumber party at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My son knew it was just a pretend story, he remained strong and courageous throughout the tale. My daughter, however, was fearful. Why did their reactions differ? My daughter let her imagination run wild, losing all sight of the fact it was a made-up story.

Some of our fear and anxiety is natural and appropriate, rational. For example, our fears can keep us safe when danger is present. We may experience fear when doing something outside of our comfort zone. While irrational fears, like my daughter’s runaway imagination. It’s a fear held in the future that can grip us so tight that movement forward is nearly impossible.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often moved forward afraid. I may be putting one foot in front of the other, but there was a whole heap of fear behind it. Forcing myself to go, full of doubt and questioning. The story I was telling myself, and believing, lacked all confidence and faith. Faith in God, others or myself.

Currently, I’m reading Louie Giglio’s book “Goliath Must Fall”. (Just a short way in, but I highly recommend it!) In his book Louie says, “The antidote to fear is faith. And the soundtrack of faith, is worship.” (pg.59) That statement is truth.

A couple weeks ago, our daughter was very sick. At the peak of her illness, I began to let fear grip my heart. And having the two girls alone together, who’s imaginations tend to run wild, was not exactly the best thing. Let me tell you, I’m embarrassed to say I went to a dark place real quick. But in an effort to calm her, I turned on some worship music. It changed the atmosphere. Prayer and worship washed over my heart too. We were both able to wrangle ourselves from the grip of fear, and into a place of faith and trust in God. We were both reminded that we are beloved daughters of The Healer.

We can choose to live in fear from so much in this fallen world. Especially when it’s hard to wrap our brains and hearts around the atrocities of school shootings, the seemingly unfair death of loved ones, and rampant addiction. It’s hard when we feel helpless, or hopeless, but we are not. We can choose to worship, playing the soundtrack of faith. We can choose to trust God’s sovereignty over all, and walk in faith. We can choose to be a light to those around us, sharing the love of God in the simplest form of a smile, acknowledging to others that they are seen.

What soundtrack are you listening to right now? Is it one of fear filled with lies, or is if one of faith and worship?

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“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 (ESV) Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Exercising opportunity, rather than my excuses

Over the past few months, I’ve been putting a higher priority on exercise. It’s not some New Year’s resolution that started early, or an attempt to lose weight. It was a desire for my body to feel more energetic and healthy. In the process of writing a Bible study over the past 18 months, I’ve set in a chair for hours on end! It’s not something I’ve ever been used to. And my body was feeling the effects.

It started with a few minutes on the elliptical at the YMCA, and maybe walk a few laps on the track afterwards. That first day, I was toast after 15 minutes on that machine. And I was embarrassed. Not due to judgmental looks of others, but my own realization to how out of shape I had gotten.

After a few weeks of hit-and-miss workouts, I decided to run a little after the elliptical. It felt so good. To stretch out my legs and find a rhythm, even if it didn’t last long.

This past Sunday, after a little nap, I woke up to a text from a dear friend. She had gone for a run. We’ve been holding one another accountable, and I felt the encouragement to not sit idle on the couch after my nap. So – the shoes went on and out the door I went. While on this particular jog, a few things really stuck out to me…

Excuses. “I woke up Sunday morning, still feeling ‘off’. I’m still not feeling 100%. But it’s Sunday, a day of rest! I wasn’t planning to run today.” Excuses. Reasons are not going to get the results I desire – a healthy body that feels good. And there is no way to get around excuses, but to put forth the effort with a ‘want to’. Wanting the results more than wanting (or living with) excuses.

Comparison. This 39-year-old mom, is not a 17-year-old cross country athlete any more. It is unfair to compare my body, and what it can do today, to my body 20+ years ago. It was exciting to have the realization that I was running again. (With no expectation attached.) It was a relief to know that it’s okay for me to not be able to run 8 miles without a hitch, and be gratefully proud of the 2 miles I was pushing so hard for now. Accepting myself, right where I am today, was powerful. Knowing that it’s not a competition between the 17 and 39-year-old, was a gift. It was about being the best reflection of who God created, in that moment. Letting go of that comparison, was freeing.

Opportunity. With warmer temps, I ran outdoors. (Self-proclaimed cold-weather-weenie.) I could have chosen to live with the reasons and sit on the couch all afternoon, but I chose to run. Had I not made that choice, I would have missed an incredible opportunity with the Lord and His creations. As I crested a large hill, and felt the urge to walk, but encouragement came. I witnessed an eagle hunting in a field, just a few yards away. It was magnificent. With some holy experiences, the details are meant to be kept to ourselves. This was one of them. Had I not gotten up off that couch and taken a step, it’s likely this encounter with God would have been missed.

I do not wish to live with my excuses and self-comparison. Instead, it is my desire to live in the opportunity to experience encounters with others and Creation. We can choose results over our reasons. What’s holding you back? What is one step could you take, today?

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“He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may become faint and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31 (CSB)  Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

Posture

When I was a kid, my mom would often correct my posture. I must have been walking hunched over, because most of those memories of her comments take place as we walk across a parking lot. As a kid, it was just annoying. As an adult, I know it’s important and can affect my whole body. The posture of our body can also speak volumes to others, body language. Crossed arms over my chest, and I’m probably not being very open to what others are saying.

I know posture is important, and I know that it can tell a lot about a person. What then, is my posture to the Lord? That internal posture. Am I closed off and withheld, arms crossed in defiance or anger? Am I soft and moldable, or dry and brittle? Am I open and available?

I’m learning that when I feel as though God is far away, I am not posturing myself towards him. I’m not leaning in, or doing so with a hard and reluctant heart. Scripture has hints tucked within, addressing posture towards our Creator.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10 (ESV, emphasis added)

That’s a promise; open wide! “For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:9 (HCSB)

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as a for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (ESV, emphasis added)

I’ve found that receiving words (Prov. 2:1), comes with open attentive ears and willing hands to receive what’s being given. It may sound funny to have open ears – my kids would argue their ears are always open. But I beg to differ. I know there has been more than one occasion when I ignored that inner voice, Holy Spirit, nudging me along.

An inclined heart (Prov. 2:2). Here, the Hebrew word for inclined is nâtâh and it means to stretch or spread out.[i] The way I understand this, as it relates to posturing myself, is being able to take my heart and spread it out before the Lord. Vulnerably stretching it out for him, through prayer and scripture. Leaning in to Him with a heart that is willing to hear, heal and grow. Nâtâh my heart.

With a heart stretched out, I must also keep my eyes open. Seeking and searching. And like the promise in Psalm 51 with an open mouth, Proverbs 2:1-5 carries one too. Posturing our hearts, with an attentive and open ear allows room for understanding the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of God.

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“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David.” Isaiah 55:3 (ESV)  Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Posturing myself towards Him not only requires a willing spirit, it requires trust. Am I willing to trust the Father with a surrendered heart, open and stretched out? Posturing myself towards Him, am I willing to receive what He has? 

I want to encourage you to take some time – What is our posture towards the Lord? Keep your eyes attentive to what scripture says about our posture towards Him. Softened hearts, stiff necks (which is not so great), and listening (or not listening) ears are tucked into all of scripture. I’m convinced that the Lord speaks to His children, He is the good shepherd (John 10). Are you postured to hear and see him?

 

[i] A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 78). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Glory Beheld, Glory Given

What do you think about when you hear the word ‘glory’? What about ‘God’s glory’?

Really. Take a minute – What do you think of?

Glory can carry a sense of renown or fame, praise and worship, brightness and splendor. That’s a broad range. Glory can be used to describe God, but also to worship Him in the sense of giving Him glory.

In the Old Testament, God’s glory appeared to the Israelites on their journey in the wilderness (Exodus 16:10) and in a devouring fire upon Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:16). In the New Testament, God’s glory shone as the shepherds received word of the King’s birth (Luke 2:9). Jesus was also described as being God’s glory in the flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Just as God’s glory appeared to the Israelites, I believe it can be seen today – every day. When the sun rises and sets, painting the sky with irreplaceable beauty. I believe it’s an expression of God’s glory. “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.

There’s something about God’s glory that intrigues me. Perhaps it’s because, for me, glory seems to be something that’s impossible to grasp and fully understand. It’s something that can be seen, but challenging to embody with just words. It can’t be contained, except by one – The Lord. He is glory.

But not only are we able to witness God’s glory, we are also meant give God Glory. “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine and, give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!” I’m guessing by the second exclamation mark, you were singing. Do you remember this song from your childhood? (If not it’s okay, a quick google search will get you there.) More than just a children’s song, it’s what we are created to do.

“I will say to the north, give up, and to the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

Even the heavenly hosts give glory to God. In Luke 2:13-14 the heavenly hosts shout and reveal God’s glory, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

Glory is something to behold and witness; and glory is something to give away, to God.

Praise is powerful, and just like the heavenly host it’s one way we can give God glory. How might you behold and give glory to God this day? It doesn’t have to sound like a chorus of angels, what matters is where that glory is directed. Rise and shine!

Lord, how may I glorify you today?

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 “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.  Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

 

 

 

A Surrendered Sheep & Shepherd

For five years now, around the New Year upon request, the Lord has given me a word or phrase to focus on. I’m not legalistic about it, just attentive to the possibility of a word from Him. However, each year it becomes something that really guides and directs me, and usually it becomes pretty obvious why.

For example, one year it was the word ‘steward’ or ‘stewardship’. There were multiple possibilities and focuses as to what I was ‘stewarding’, such as family and relationships, work, our farm, etc. But in a major hardship that year, it became obvious as to why that word would be my guide. I was learning to steward something that wasn’t mine. I had to trust God, be obedient, and then let go.

Over the course of several challenging months, I chose to ask God, “Would you help me to steward this (situation) well, Lord? I need you to guide me.” No matter what the outcome, I desired to keep watch over what He had entrusted to me. I was a sheep asking her Shepherd, to help her be a shepherd.

It’s an interesting thought, to be both sheep and shepherd. We are all following someone else, as a sheep would. In the same respect, we all have someone following us, which puts us in the position of being a shepherd. Clear as mud?

Our Messiah, Jesus, is a perfect example for us. He is both the spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19) following the will of our Father, and our shepherd (John 10:1-18).

In order to be a sheep we put ourselves under the authority of another, for example – God. As a sheep, I listen for the voice of my shepherd and trust his leading. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) If I don’t listen, I’ll for sure get lost and start listening to something or someone else.

As a shepherd, I don’t wish to lead people astray. It’s being intentional and honoring with what God has entrusted to me. Therefore, I must be attuned and listening to God, aware and purposeful.

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“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

This year, my word has an associated phrase – surrender (to God), and give Him glory. At first I didn’t think they were so closely tied together. They seemed like two separate, yet semi-related ideas. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been on a mental journey in respect to surrender. The glory bit came latter. I’m looking forward to more understanding as to how they fit together.

At first, I tried to shake-off this word ‘surrender’. Who wants that one?! How about joy, gratitude, or maybe even patience. Patience is at least a fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22) But I’m grateful for this challenge. After wrestling with ‘surrender’ for a few weeks (that’s a funny thought), I’m finding this act increases comfort and trust in God. I’m discovering that surrender requires a lot of letting go, and while uncomfortable, it feels good. There is also a beginning realization that by surrendering, it allows room to bring God glory.

How about you? Is God placing something on your heart right now? Something to focus on, guiding you through this season or this year?

With Gratitude, Amy